Group takes legal action to dismiss the 2020 cannabis referendum result

A group of over 350 people have petitioned the High Court with a legal bid to void the ‘no’ vote on the Cannabis and Control Bill.

The bill that would have legalised and regulated cannabis was narrowly defeated in the 2020 Cannabis Referendum which resulted in 50.7 percent of voters choosing ‘no’ to legalising the production, sale and use of cannabis in New Zealand.

NUBU Pharmaceuticals Co-Founder and COO Will Douglas says "Our goal at NUBU has always been to make medicinal cannabis more accessible and despite opinion to the contrary, the referendum going the other way would’ve helped that - it was one of the main drivers behind Canada legalising adult use cannabis in 2018. However, we’re committed to working within the existing framework to achieve our goal."

The petition claims that poor and inaccurate information on cannabis generated confusion among voters.

It also claims that the Electoral Commission reinforced that misinformation by failing to correct multiple publications that the group believes aided in New Zealanders voting against the bill.

The Referendums Framework Act 2019 permits a group of 200 or more people to petition the High Court to inquire into a referendum in order to determine if there were “irregularities in the conduct of the referendum or of any person connected with it [that] materially affected the result”.

Drug Reform advocate Blair Anderson, who is part of the group challenging the High Court, told RNZ Checkpoint "We saw ads in the mainstream newspapers of things like dopey dairies, which people will remember had cannabis leaves all over it, with kids on skateboards in front of it.

"There was no such provision within the actual legalisation and control bill to do that. In fact, it was specifically excluded.

Under the law a judge does have the power to void the referendum, Anderson said.

"It's not the result of the referendum we're disputing. We're disputing the conduct of that referendum and I make that very clear.”

Listen to the RNZ interview with Blair Anderson here.

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